Thanksgiving has changed how I live my life, how I feel about life and how I see the world.
I first learned this lesson just after my brother very suddenly died. After spending time in my hometown praying with my family, believing for the impossible and receiving great grace in our grieving, I returned home to North Carolina. When I arrived I immediately recognized that everything was different. When I left for my brother’s funeral, winter was ending but spring had not fully arrived. When I entered our North Carolina, I first noticed the sun was bright and warm. Before we left, our chickens were small but now they were fully grown. My roses had more pink blooms than ever before and the scent of my jasmine plants permeated the air. I felt immense gratitude to God for showing me this great abundance. For the first time I realized that in the midst of our pain and in the midst of suffering, God still provides us with gifts all around. He gives me beauty and miracles; I just have to have eyes and a heart to see them. When I began thanking Him, my perspective changed.
Many people who were part of the early church, formed just after the death and resurrection of Christ, also witnessed this. In Acts, we are told the story of Paul and Silas. These two men obeyed God and performed a miracle. The miracle performed made the Roman people very angry and so they reported Paul and Silas to the authorities. Paul and Silas were ordered to be stripped naked and beaten with rods and then jailed. The jailer was given specific instructions to guard them carefully, so the jailer put them in the inner cell and chained their feet.
I don’t know about you, but I probably would have reacted with some yelling making sure that everyone in the jail knew that “I have rights”, “I can’t be jailed” “They need to let me go right now”! After yelling I would probably enter into a state of self‐pity. Telling my cellmate that “Bad things always happen to me”, “Well, this is what happens when we try to do the right thing”. Then maybe I would turn my speech to God reminding Him that, “I was being such a humble servant and this is how you thank me?” “Don’t you care about me, God?” “Have you forgotten me altogether?”
This is not how Paul and Silas responded at all! They didn’t waste their words or their time on yelling or complaining or asking God why. Instead, they did the unexpected. They began to thank God and praise God for all that He is. Acts 16 says that the other prisoners were listening to them, meaning that they were praising God so loudly that even though they were in the inner cell, the other prisoners could hear them. At about midnight in that cold very dark place, a large earthquake (the Bible says is was a “violent” earthquake) shook the foundations of the prison. All the prison doors opened and Paul and Silas’ chains fell off.
The jailer, thinking that all the prisoners escaped, drew his sword to kill himself, knowing that if they escaped he would be put to death as punishment. That’s when Paul said, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all still here!”
If you take time to read all of Acts 16, you’ll see that praise and thanksgiving caused Paul and Silas’ circumstances to change. Thanksgiving literally broke the chains of bondage off them. Gratitude freed them and thanksgiving and praise to God freed the jailer and the jailer’s entire family. Our response to the bad things, our response to emotional pain and unfair circumstances can change the lives of those around us as much as it changes us. The Bible says in I Thessalonians 5:16,”Be joyful ALWAYS, pray continually. Give thanks in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”God directs us this way because He knows that there is freedom in being thankful.
I encourage you the next time you have a day where everything seems to go wrong or you find yourself in a season of your life where there seems to only be darkness all around, to start listing every small and large thing for which you are thankful. The song the birds are singing outside your window or for the beauty of fresh snow falling. Thank God for your family and for love, for your salvation and eternity with Him. Show gratitude for the blood of Jesus that heals and saves you, for a stranger’s smile, and shelter from the cold. Whatever it is that you can thank Him for, Thank Him! The Bible tells us in Philippians 4 that what is true, noble, right, pure, whatever is lovely, admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy to think about such things. We’re told that even when we make requests in prayer, we should do it with thanksgiving. When we do that, the peace of God will guard our hearts and our minds.
Take a few minutes now. Grab a piece of paper and a pen. For some, thanksgiving will come in a list form – each line on the paper a new reason to give thanks. For some, it will be a drawing of thanksgiving. For others, a song or a story. List or draw your thanksgiving and begin to receive freedom and peace.
To learn more about the power of Thanksgiving I recommend reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp or read her blog here – http://www.aholyexperience.com/
Christ Fellowship member